“Using taxpayer dollars to prolong legal work stoppages is not only a waste of money but belies any claim that this Liberal government is progressive towards the needs of our most fragile citizens and our skilled health care workers, the vast majority of whom are women." — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
Toronto (28 Aug. 2015) — In a statement released on August 25, Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) challenged the provincial government to take urgent action in a labour dispute at CarePartners in the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant region in Ontario.
Home care workers at CarePartners struggle for fair compensation
OPSEU/NUPGE members at CarePartners have been on strike for over four months. The members are trying to negotiate a new pay structure and improved sick time and health and safety provisions. The CCAC in the region currently pays their nurses by the visit rather than by the hour. This means they often work for less than minimum wage. They have no sick days or compensation for overtime.
Previously most home care was performed by salaried employees of not-for-profit organizations. Then Community Care Access Centres (CCAC), which are 100 per cent funded by taxpayers, put home care out for competitive bidding. For-profit companies competed to provide services, such as in-home dialysis, complex wound care and palliative services. The cheapest bid won, so these companies drove down their costs by suppressing wages and benefits.
CarePartners using strikebreakers to replace workers
As the dispute drags on, the employer has allowed strikebreakers to take over the jobs of the CarePartner workers. CarePartners receives its funding directly from the taxes collected by the Ontario government.
"When the Wynne government wants to take action, things happen," said Thomas. "We see that with the two tentative agreements just reached with the teachers. Similar action is long overdue in the health care system."
OPSEU/NUPGE to meet with Health Minister over dispute and use of strikebreakers
Following a sit-in at the Health Minister's office by striking OPSEU/NUPGE members, a meeting has been arranged to discuss the dispute with Minister Eric Hoskins. The meeting will take place on September 1.
"Our message to the minister will be simple. The Wynne government is actively assisting the attempt to break our union using taxpayers’ dollars. It is unconscionable that the government is currently paying strikebreakers to do the jobs of health care professionals. The government should stop this funding immediately and do what it did for teachers and ensure a fair contract is reached."
Thomas continued, “Using taxpayer dollars to prolong legal work stoppages is not only a waste of money but belies any claim that this Liberal government is progressive towards the needs of our most fragile citizens and our skilled health care workers, the vast majority of whom are women."
Thick layer of fat has been introduced to home care through competitive bidding
"At the same time, the owners of CarePartners —who are simply intermediaries because all of their funding comes from taxpayers — pay themselves handsome salaries and build large corporate offices," said Thomas. "A thick layer of for-profit fat, which previously did not exist, was introduced to Ontario’s home care system. The result is that patients are receiving poorer care and health care professionals are seeing good jobs destroyed."
"It is time for Minister Hoskins to personally intervene and resolve the CarePartners dispute. I’ll be driving that home when we meet next week. It should be government policy that home care workers are paid by the hour and not by the visit.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE